Buffalo Sabres vs. Florida Panthers: Three Keys

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 09: (Photo by Nicholas T. LoVerde/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 09: (Photo by Nicholas T. LoVerde/Getty Images) /

The Buffalo Sabres are riding a four-game points streak.  The Florida Panthers . . . are not.  Here are the three keys to another Sabres victory!

The Buffalo Sabres woke up today to find themselves sitting atop the Atlantic Division, thanks to the Colorado Avalanche, whose 4-2 victory last night denied the Boston Bruins any points.  You know, I always liked those guys in Colorado . . . .

Obviously, the season is just getting started, but everyone who follows sports understands that confidence breeds success.  There are not too many pundits who expect the Sabres to finish first in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division this season, but the way the team is playing has certainly turned some heads.  Talk of this team seeing playoff action is still a tad premature, but no longer seems like a pipe dream.  The Sabres are clearly a confident bunch right now, and a win against a so-so Florida Panthers team is just the sort of result that would send the message to the rest of the NHL: Buffalo is for real this year.

So can the Sabres earn another two points against the Panthers?  Here are the three keys to tonight’s game!

1. Will the real Jack Eichel please step up?

One of our keys to the Sabres – Canadiens matchup Wednesday night focused on how Jack Eichel would respond following the so-so effort he produced on the road in Columbus.  The results are in: Captain Jack was an unstoppable force of nature, with four points, eight shots on goal, and a 57% success rate on faceoffs, to boot.  It is not fair to expect Eichel to put up close to ten shots and four points per game . . . but it is clear that he is one of the dominant offensive players in the NHL when he wants to be.  If the same Jack Eichel who dominated Montreal shows up tonight, it will be lights out for the Panthers.

2. Special teams Have Made The Difference

So far this season, Buffalo has been deadly when enjoying a man advantage.  The Sabres have found the back of the net on 53.3% of their power plays, and are slightly better at home (55%) than on the road (50%).   The Sabres have so many weapons on the power play right now, it is only a matter of time before someone finds the back of the net.  That certainly bodes well for tonight, as the Panthers average around three penalties a game, so we should expect the Blue and Gold to light the lamp at least once while enjoying a man advantage.

On the flip side, the Sabres have been equally impressive when it comes to killing off penalties on their home ice.  So far, the Blue and Gold have given up just one short-handed goal in their two home contests.  Again, the season is young, so the fact that Buffalo currently boasts an 80% penalty kill percentage does not mean much, but it does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that if Buffalo can score more on the power play than they allow, they are going to put themselves in a position to win, now does it?

3. Tighten Up The D Zone

Unfortunately, discussing how well opponents are doing in the Sabres’ defensive zone is already a recurring theme.  The Sabres were woefully outshot on Monday in Columbus, and even though they limited Montreal to only 27 shots on goal Wednesday, head coach Ralph Krueger admitted “we definitely didn’t have the structure defensively we want to have.”  For goodness sakes, Joel Armia – the same Joel Armia who has 85 career points TOTAL – earned three points against Buffalo the other night, which is exactly three more than he had scored in his first two games of the season.  The Sabres cannot allow to let mediocre players look like superstars against them if they want to continue to keep pace with the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

We love to hear from Sabres fans, so sound off in the comments section below!  Let’s go Buffalo!